Green Bay Metro rolling along in spite of pandemic
By Josh Staloch
GREEN BAY – With ridership down more than 50 percent compared to pre-coronavirus numbers, 2020 has been an exercise in adaptation for Green Bay Metro as the need for public transportation still exists, but has drastically changed.
Though the loss of half its business over the course of nearly a year is putting a strain on things, local riders who rely on the city bus can rest assured knowing the wheels are still turning.
“We’ve had to do a lot,” said Green Bay Metro transit director Patty Kiewiz. “We’ve had to come up with multiple safety measures and then put them into place. I think it’s going to be a little while before public transit bounces back. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode, like a lot of other industries.”
The number of daily trips provided by Green Bay Metro has fallen from roughly 4,500 to about 1,500 since COVID-19 emerged earlier in the year.
However, the circumstances haven’t hurt the area’s public transit system, beyond some changes in hours of service and basic protocol measures put in place for safety.
Some late-night routes have been eliminated due to not enough demand to justify running the 40-foot vehicles.
Riders are, of course, asked to wear facemasks, and hand sanitizer and ultraviolet air purifiers on buses have been installed as well.
Keeping the public transit system running through a time in which work-from-home situations, as well as the absence of the student population that would normally ride the bus, has been possible through $6.4 million in funds from the CARES Act.
Green Bay Metro, part of the state and national public transit structure, utilized help from advocacy groups like the Wisconsin Public Transportation Association as well as the American Public Transportation Association to quickly access the funds.
“Not knowing how long it will take public transit to rebound, it will be pretty critical for us going forward to keep getting that kind of support,” said Kiewiz. “So, hopefully, they don’t forget about us when the next round of stimulus happens.”
With the challenges brought on by the pandemic, innovation has played a role and Green Bay Metro has made changes to not only stay ahead of operating costs, but to continue to provide vital services.
Though nighttime routes have been trimmed to meet changing demand, Green Bay Metro can still help a small number of customers in the affected areas who need rides at night.
For those customers, it is offering what it calls micro transit services consisting of smaller, seven-passenger vehicles for the routes.
In a move to further help with cost efficiency, Green Bay Metro is also now offering an app called GBM On Demand, which will allow customers to book transportation in a seven-passenger transit vehicle to get to areas where regular services have been altered.
The app can be downloaded in the Apple App Store.